Saturday, December 5, 2009

Long or Short?

There seem to be a lot of short story contests and flash fiction mentions around the online writing community lately. I probably won't be entering any or reading many. I have a definite preference for longer works, both when I'm reading and writing. As usual, my brain started wondering why. :)

I understand the talent and work the shorter pieces take. When I'm teaching, I limit the pages/words students have for their writing in order for them to learn control. I use phrases like "clear and concise," "rambly", and "precise language." I also occasionally teach/write poetry where every word, every syllable is vital. So, yeah, I think I get it. I admire all the folks who do write the shorter stuff.

But I don't write short works. The ideas popping into my head take a lot longer to develop and explore. For me, writing is mostly about emotion and characters. My characters become very real, as do their problems. The conflict is complicated.

I also like subplots and secondary characters. These are often as compelling as the main plot and characters. I like multi-faceted situations and people. I know, I know these can occur in short pieces too.

Maybe I prefer the longer works because I tend to become highly attached to the people populating these worlds. Maybe it's simply that I enjoy living in their worlds, and don't want to let them go. I've always been a series reader too. Hmmm....

What about you? Do you have a preference for longer or shorter works, or are they equally appealing for you? Have you thought about why?

On another note, thank you to Stephen Tremp over at his Breakthrough Blogs. Stephen is a great blogger who keeps track of all kinds of news and information interesting to writers. Stephen awarded me the "Awesomous Maximus" Award. Check out the great looking pup on the sidebar of the blog :) Thanks Stephen, and if you haven't checked out his blog, do yourself a favour and pop over!

40 comments:

  1. Surprisingly enough, I write flash fiction. :)

    What I don't understand is why aspiring novelists claim not to be able to write short stories. You do it all the time: they're called chapters.

    Granted, some chapters are heavily dependent on what comes before and after, but sometimes they have a nice, self-contained little story that's comprehensible even out of context.

    Flash fiction is all about telling moments. Your chapters have to be full of telling moments, otherwise they might not keep the reader interested. The requirements for backstory and foreshadowing aren't present in flash. The characters and the situation are what they are--you don't need to explain.

    I will allow, however, that some story ideas need novels to be fully realized. I just happen to have plenty of ideas that are simply intriguing moments. And about four that need to be novels. The flashes take less time, though, so that's what I do!

    (Sorry 'bout the long comment... :)

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  2. Simon - No worries about long comments - we writers tend to be a passionate bunch :)

    Someday, I would like to try flash & short fiction, but there's just no time to experiment at the moment. Full time job, full time family, blogging & actually working on my novel fill up too much of the day as it is!

    We'll see what the future holds...

    Besides our differences are what make us unique & that's a good thing :)

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  3. I feel the same way, Jemi. I tried to enter a short story contest about a month ago, and I just couldn't come up with anything that I felt would do well as a short piece. I do the exact same thing you do - my stories are all about the characters and how they change over time. You're right that it can be done in a short story; I just don't know how to do it, and I prefer to take a lot more time with my characters and their emotions/trials.

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  4. Anne - it will be interesting to see how the opinions balance out in the end. I love finding out how different writers work. I envy the folks who can do all different types of writing at once. I tend to focus on one project at a time - but that's mostly a time issue for me :)

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  5. I've never really tried writing the short pieces. I think I agree with you, Jemi,I like to go into detail and explore characters and situations. Just going from point A to point B is not something I like to do. I like a few detours and rest stops here and there. But now that I've started noticing these short pieces more I may have to give it a try.
    Lee
    http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/

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  6. Simon C. Larter, took the words right out of my mouth. 'Short stories. We do it all the time. They're called chapters'.

    Unfortunately, I'm not blessed in condensing anything, whether it be ingredients for a meal or a novel. I require at least 80,000 words to tell the story.

    Wish I could though. Would make my life so much easier :)

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  7. Lee - It does sound like fun! I just need to make more time :)

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  8. Quillfeather - I love Simon's quote too. It's true - just never thought of it that way before.

    Your comment makes me wonder if I just talk too much :)

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  9. I do have a couple manuscripts, but turn to shorter works when I'm in between projects, or after an edit, or in a waiting phase. Some of my shorter works have been excerpted from the manuscripts, and others are standalone. So I guess I dabble in both :)

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  10. Thanks, Michele - you're so sweet!

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  11. Joanne - that's how I kind of envisioned my writing. Doing short stuff while I edited, revised and watied for responses. But.... it just doesn't happen - not enough time. :)

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  12. I also have a preference for novels. Every short story Ive ever written, I've wanted to make into a novel. I just don't feel satisfied leaving them at the end. Even the book I'm writing now seems to be turning into a series because I just want to keep working with him, and the subplots keep popping up. Great post! I feel so in tune with you!

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  13. I just can't get the hang of short stories or flash fiction. Maybe I need to try harder? Or maybe I'm just too long winded? Ha!

    Congrats on the award!

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  14. I write and read longer works. I've been reading flash fiction since I've started blogging and visiting blogs. I like reading the short-shorts, but don't think I could write it.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  15. Carol - Yes, those subplots won't leave me alone, they insist they're vital to the overall story. I find they're usually right :)

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  16. Lisa & Laura - Thanks :)

    I'm wondering if long-winded might just be my issue too!

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  17. Helen - I haven't read too many yet - again a time issue for me. I also worry once I start I'll get sucked into the vortex and wave goodbye to the little sleep I get :)

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  18. I enjoy *reading* drabbles and flash fiction (and the time involved in reading them is about right for my crazy schedule!), but *writing* them is really hard for me.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  19. Elizabeth - I should make more time to read them - I'm usually in a novel, and I steal bits and pieces of it when I can. Our schedules are crazy, aren't they?

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  20. I love short stories. I have a collection coming out. That said, I read and write novels too. And, they are two different animals. I have posted some short fiction on my blog, not flash fiction though. I need something to sink my teeth into. Too short and I'm left unfulfilled.

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  21. Elizabeth - yours is one of the places where I have read and enjoyed short fiction :) You have a lovely voice for it.

    I think that's the same with me - at the moment I like the longer works. Life is about nothing if it's not about change though :)

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  22. I much prefer writing novels, but my short stories are fun, too. They capture only a moment in time, so there is no need for backstory. The setting and characters tell that. Sometimes it is just a thought or idea that I want to convey and a short story is the perfect answer. I really enjoy them, but my novels are my first passion. I think they always will be. :)

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  23. TK - I agree - novels are my first passion. I think I made a mistake blogging about this topic.... now I want to try it :)

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  24. As a reader, I like to get lost in the world of a novel. When I'm reading a short story, I sometimes (not always) feel like I have to leave just as I'm settling in.

    As a writer, I'm one of those whose short story ideas always seem to turn into novels in the writing. :)

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  25. Nancy - me too. Words, plots, subplots, characters all keep taking control & it's no longer a short story :)

    Thanks for dropping by!

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  26. I'm exactly the same way, Jemi. I really get attatched to characters and stories, so much so that more than anything, I love series. However, there are so many good short stories out there, that I can't help but enjoy them too.

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  27. Calista - I just wish I had more time!! There's so much good stuff out there to read. I've been a series reader FOREVER - starting way back with Encyclopedia Brown :)

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  28. I think I could enjoy short story writing if I tried harder. Still, I'd rather read a novel than a collection of short stories any day, so I think that's why I stick to novel writing.

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  29. I love reading looooong novels with my favorite characters, however writing longer pieces is relatively new to me.

    My first published works were articles, short stories and poetry. Short. Short. Short. I couldn't imagine being able to write page after chapter of the same story. I didn't believe I had the capacity to sustain it.

    NaNo has changed that for me, though I still write much shorter than you comparatively speaking.

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  30. When I was a teenager, I wrote a ton of short stories. The ideas that came to me back then were all very suitable for the short story length. I had maybe one or two ideas that were novel-length, but that was it. Then, somewhere along the way, I started getting more involved and complicated ideas coming to me, or concepts that couldn't be expressed in a short story. I'm not sure why that happened!

    I'm very intrigued by the flash fiction idea, but I still much prefer putting all those moments together into a novel. :)

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  31. Natalie - me too! I love really getting involved in the characters' lives :)

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  32. That's really interesting Cat!

    I didn't realize you had so much experience with shorter works. Glad NaNo was such a good experience for you :)

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  33. Belle - I wonder if that's fairly common. As teens I don't know many people who could fully develop big ideas - although there are a few obvious exceptions to that. I'm pretty sure I couldn't have done it!

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  34. I write short (50K) but not that short. :)

    I've read some really great novellas but I always finish wishing they could be a little longer.

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  35. I have no preference other than it needs to be a good story :)

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  36. Jennifer - I haven't read any novellas yet. But I think I'd be the same - I don't like letting go. :)

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  37. Carolyn - yes, I think you're right. Story always trumps all, doesn't it. :)

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  38. I'm so very long-winded that I really struggle to write short stories. Or short comments. Or short blog posts. So yeah. Maybe it's because I get attached to my characters, I don't know. Or maybe it's because I don't feel like I know my characters until I'm 35K in. Or something.

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  39. Elana - yup, same boat. Nothing inherently wrong with long winded. Is there??

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